Plan Early for Your Child’s Long-Term Security
The vast majority of my clients who have children with special needs share the same goal: that they will outlive their children. The thought of leaving their loved ones behind is, at the very least, traumatic. Special needs planning can help pave the road to a more hopeful future. There are several common issues for people to consider as they develop a plan to care for their loved ones.
Transition Planning involves helping a young person prepare for adulthood. This planning is important because when a person reaches the age of majority (which is 18 years of age in many jurisdictions), many different rules may apply. For example, a parent might no longer have legal standing to act on behalf of a child for educational or medical purposes once the child turns 18.
A caregiver should ideally begin transition planning when the care recipient is about the age of 15, and should ensure that the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) prepares them for life after graduation. The planning should involve as much input from the care recipient as possible in order to reflect their preferences for future living arrangements, career and social life. The IEP should be designed to provide the academic, social and life skills they’ll need to achieve their goals, given a support system that will change dramatically once they leave high school.
In many cases, establishing powers of attorney that cover legal, financial, educational and healthcare decisions can provide the right balance of independence and security for a young adult. A power of attorney can be dissolved at any time and merely adds a decision maker to the individual’s support team. It may make sense for more than one person to fill these various roles, depending on their skills and relationship with the individual. For those with more severe disabilities, a guardianship and/or conservatorship, which grants more far-reaching authority, should be explored. These are serious decisions, and a special needs attorney should be consulted.
For many, special public educational programs will terminate in early adulthood. Some individuals will pursue further education and others will enter the workplace. Others may need specialized day programs and services. Having a plan designed to Obtain or maintain meaningful activity can help instill a sense of pride and self-satisfaction for both parents and adult children. A state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency may be helpful in providing job coaching and other supports. Job coaches provide a wide range of services, such as identifying an individual’s capabilities, preparing them for interviews and providing onsite employment support.
(Continued on page 2)